brown eggs

Locality: Gingerich’s Organic Eggs

brown eggs

It’s amazing how little you know about the people you know.

Don and Sharon Gingerich were friends of my parents when I was a kid, and at times they were our babysitters, too. They live on the same side road as we did, a few country blocks away.

They are the parents of eight, grandparents of fifteen, and the proud caretakers of hundreds of “happy chickens,” as Sharon emphatically calls their flock.

Happy Chickens
The Happy Chickens

I knew the Gingerichs produced and sold organic eggs, but what I only recently found out was just how rare their operation is, and how well they have established themselves in the organic foods community across Southwestern Ontario.

The Gingerichs have a small organic egg farm. Though you might have some concept of what that looks like, the reality might be more impressive than you imagine.

For starters, there are the regulations imposed on every egg farmer. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) stipulates that every egg sold in stores in Ontario must be graded according to federal standards at a facility authorized by the federal government. Official grading stations are often far from small egg farms, and transporting eggs is costly

Then, there are the Pro-Cert organic certification regulations, which stipulate things like what the hens are fed and how the eggs are cleaned. In all, the Gingerichs comply with seven sets of regulations, all in order to do what they feel they must: produce premium organic eggs.

This is not to mention quota. The Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) regulate the production of eggs, so that production does not exceed consumption. Any farmer with more than 99 laying hens is required to purchase quota from the EFO to the tune of $250/bird.

Don and Sharon have been in the egg business since the early 1970s, so they were “grandfathered” into the right to have 499 birds without buying quota, instead of the current 99. In recent years, in order to keep up with their demand, they have leased quota at the much more affordable rate of $7.80/bird/year, so that they have up to 1000 birds at any given time. They always have three or four stages of hens on the go: chicks;Β  young hens, which start laying at about 6 months old; laying hens, which “work” until they are about a year old), and “spent hens,” which are no longer producing, and so they get slated to be made into organic ground chicken.

One of the things that really sets the Gingerichs apart is the fact that they are Grader/Producers: they have their own federally-authorized grading station, right in their barn. It took two years of aggravation and inspections to get the station set up, but it was worth it.

candling
Don rotates an egg at the candling station, looking for any blemishes in the shell or yolk

Every morning, eggs are collected with wire baskets, then washed in a rotating tub filled with hot water and hydrogen peroxide. After being rinsed, they are placed in plastic trays to dry before grading.

The grading station includes a bright light which, when the eggs are held up to it one by one, shows any blemishes or cracks in the shells. This is called candling.

Here’s the process of grading, in pictures:

(Please forgive my pictures – I forgot my good camera, so these are kind of dark and blurry)

Don grading eggs
Don works the grading station
grading station
Eggs on the grading station
grading station organization
Eggs get organized according to size
Eggs on grading table
Eggs waiting to be placed in cartons
egg cartons
Graded eggs are placed in these cartons according to size
Don points out a fluff on one egg
Don points out a fluff on one egg
Eggs in carton
Eggs in carton, ready to be labelled
Labelling
Labelling the cartons
Labelled and ready to go!
Labelled and ready to go! (Except for the best-before date stamp)

Between the Gingerichs and you, no one else has touched the eggs. Now that is fresh!

I said earlier that it’s amazing what you don’t know about the people you know. It’s also surprising what you take for granted about the resources in your own neighbourhood. I didn’t realize just how lucky I was to be from a rural area and to personally know an organic egg farmer.

According to a Globe and Mail article updated in January of this year, farm-fresh organic eggs have garnered a cult following. In some Ontario health food stores, organic eggs aren’t on the shelves, but if you say the right thing (think: password), a carton just might appear from a hidden shelf.

[Our] eggs are from Don Gingerich’s Farm. Of all the eggs we’ve carried in our stores, these are consistently of the highest quality.

– RealFoodToronto.com

They’re delicious, they’re nutritious, but they’re not as cheap as you have come to expect of (non-organic, non-free-range) supermarket eggs: The Gingerichs’ eggs sell for $6-$8 per dozen at the stores mentioned below. Knowing the Gingerichs, I can guarantee that you get what you pay for. Every time.

Okay, so here’s what you’ve all been waiting for: where you can get these delightfully fresh, free-range organic eggs.

Also, you can expect to enjoy Gingerich organic eggs when you eat at Garlic’s of London on Richmond St in London, ON.

If you would like to see Don and Sharon’sΒ  eggs in your local health food store or market, ask the owner about them. Some store owners believe that they don’t have a market for premium organic eggs, but perhaps they do!

~~~

For some more articles about Gingerichs’ eggs:

Ingredient: farm fresh eggs

Gingerichs’ Listing in the Canada’s Who’s Who of the Poultry Industry (bottom of page 74)

Cruelty-Free egg

~~~

And, a random point of interest, Don & Sharon are the parents of Ben, the owner of Coastal Coffee Company. That organic apple didn’t stray far from the tree!

Oh, and this isn’t the last you’ve heard of the Gingerichs. There’s more!

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21 thoughts on “Locality: Gingerich’s Organic Eggs

    • Right?!

      If you know of gems like the Gingerich farm that you think people need to know about, let me know and I’ll pay them a visit and add them to the Locality series!

  1. […] Johnathan and I were in London, spending the day looking for a place to live there (’cause he got a job, YEAH!), and we happened to drive by the Western Fair Farmer’s Market, which is open each Saturday between 8 and 3. I practically squealed with excitement. I had learned about this market while doing research for my article about Don Gingerich’s organic eggs. […]

  2. […] Here are the eggs in question: The brown egg is free range, … In light of my post about Gingerich's organic eggs a few weeks ago, this post is fantastic. Thanks to Rachel of rachels-table.com for this enlightened […]

  3. We’ve been eating the Gingerich’s eggs for years now. LOVE them. Thanks for highlighting their operation; this all made me so happy to read. πŸ™‚

    Question – do you know what they feed their hens? I imagine they have access to some pasture, but do you know if they are exclusively pastured? Or if they receive soy meal or cornmeal to supplement their diet?

    Thanks so much. Happy to have stumbled upon your blog. ~Debbie

    • Thanks for the comment, Debbie!

      Don and Sharon tell me that their chickens eat all certified organic feed that consists of grains, soy for protein, vitamins & minerals, and corn, which is high in energy and contributes to a yellower yolk. They also have free (daytime) range of an outdoor fenced-in pen, where they scavenge for bugs to their heart’s delight. Sharon says that they sometimes even roost in some nearby peach trees and nibble on peaches. πŸ™‚

  4. Huron Sustainable Food System Event. Feel free to extend the invitation to family, friends, neighbours and other community members.

    Please direct anyone interested in attending to register with the information below:

    Event: Sustainable Food System – Huron Community Meeting

    Date: May 8th, 2013

    Time: 6-9pm, refreshments available

    Location: Stanley Community Centre
    38594 Mill Road
    Varna ON N0M 2R0

    Register: to register, email
    jdunbar@huroncounty.ca
    or call
    519.482.3416 ext.2255
    or 1.877.837.6143 ext.2255

    Looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday night!

    best,
    Samantha

  5. Thank you so much for this wonderful and informative blog post! Since moving to Toronto from Ottawa, I’ve realized it’s extremely difficult to come by ethical, sustainable and locally produced products. That’s also for including the photos. So many of the big names in organics and health food in Toronto never include one real photo of the farms and barns where their eggs, meat and dairy come from. Great post!

  6. Hi Sarah,

    I’m wondering if you might have the contact information for Gingeriches Farm? I’m desperate to have their lovely eggs in my shop and I cant find their contact info anywhere online!

    Many thanks

    • Hi Dee – thanks for your comment!

      I’ve sent an email to Don and Sharon asking how they prefer people to be in touch. When I hear back, I’ll send you an email.

  7. We purchased 6 lovely Rhode Island heritage chickens and 7 beautiful Japanese chickens last year, to enjoy at our horse breeding facility near Woodstock ON. We treat “the girls” with kindness and make sure we meet their every need, including their happiness. They are truly free-range, roaming the farm at their leisure. They have their “hen-house”, which they come and go as they please, and roam the five acres of grass and shrubs around our home. They can usually be found in bed shortly after supper and always up by the time I leave for work at 6:00 AM….as they follow me to my vehicle! They enjoy crimped oats, fresh vegetables, grasses, bugs and the occasional treat of sliced wholewheat bread, their favorite! Nothing makes me happier than when I call out “girls, pic pic” and they all come running to my voice! I am disappointed to hear and see how so many commercial farmers are suggesting that their chickens are free-range, when their chickens are still housed in a facility with very little freedom to peck the dirt, walk through the grass and do what they do best, provide hours of viewing enjoyment! I bring my eggs to my friends at work and sell them for $4/dozen….I never have enough to meet demand! I always jest and say “I will ask the girls to kick it up a notch”….but I am truly happy that I not only get to enjoy my truly free-range chickens and their eggs but my friends do as well! It’s amazing how many friends you have, when you have free-range chicken eggs available! Thank you for the lovely blog!

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